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Post Brexit and the German Perspective
Created by John Eipper on 06/30/16 8:09 AM

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Brexit and the German Perspective (Patrick Mears, -Germany, 06/30/16 8:09 am)

John E asked for my comment on the mood in Germany after the Brexit vote. Right now I am in Chicago, attending a smallish international insolvency law conference, so I am a bit out of touch with current events on the ground in Germany. However, there are a few Germans here with me, one of whom is a university professor and the other is a judge of the Bundesgerichtshof (the German Supreme Court, not to be confused with Germany's constitutional court, both of which courts sit in Karlsruhe), and so I might have more to report later.

You probably have read the news stories that Angela Merkel declared a day or two ago that the EU should be patient in working through the Article 50 process in order to "get it right" and not rush to eject the UK and get it wrong. That comment seemed to capture the general mood in the country that produced Walter Hallstein and Konrad Adenauer. Perhaps she is hoping against hope that there will be a change of heart in the UK or, more realistically, a softening of demands for free-fall exit.

Dramatic events seem to keep popping up in the meantime: Boris Johnson dropped out of the Tory race, Jeremy Corbin seems to be on the ropes but still clinging onto them, and the EU member states' ministers announced that a waiver of "freedom of movement" will not simply be offered to the UK in Article 50 negotiations "à la carte."

I appreciated Cameron Sawyer's post of 30 June, and his analogy to the American "War Between the States" and sovereignty. That is an important aspect of this entire scramble which puts the events into fine and understandable perspective for Americans.

JE comments: Great to hear from you, Pat! Your note is the first news I've heard about Boris Johnson's withdrawal. What could explain this other than some sort of closet skeleton we don't know about?

Nigel Jones has cited the "limited appeal" of Michael Gove, who is an announced candidate for Tory leader. Most observers point to Theresa May, although this is not a year for conventional wisdom.

I've been thinking all week about Brexit and any possible analogies with the Secessionist states of 1860-'61.  The eleven states of the CSA probably thought they were invoking their own "Article 50" equivalents--and the United States was (were) arguably no more a "nation" in 1860 than the EU is today.  Or arguably it was:  consider the US national army, its central executive, common language (if not common culture), mobility of its people, etc.


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  • Boris Johnson and Michael Gove (John Heelan, -UK 06/30/16 1:47 PM)

    Perhaps reality has dawned on Boris Johnson after being politically stabbed by his friend and co-Brexiteer, Michael Gove. Politics is cruel sport. One comment that I have read is that maybe Boris--popular though he is--has recognised that given the Establishment's like of Mary Poppins nanny figures like Thatcher in days of turmoil--Tory MPs are likely to run to hide behind the skirts of Theresa May.


    JE comments:  Who is this gentleman?  (See below.)  I'd venture that in the US, 98% of the respondents would answer:  "I do not know."

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  • Boris Johnson's Skeletons? (Patrick Mears, -Germany 07/02/16 5:12 AM)
    With respect to the question John E asked earlier about Boris Johnson's "skeletons in the closet," there are some interesting articles in the July 1st issue of The New York Times about the personalities of political leaders involved in the Brexit campaign.

    One of these articles is an abbreviated portrait of Boris that describes his irreverent antics over the years which, in many respects, have endeared himself with the English public. The article notes that Boris was born in the US but surrendered his American citizenship because of his unwillingness to pay US taxes--but that is not much of a skeleton. The NYT piece also mentions that Boris has fathered two children out of wedlock. If there are any other Boris-related skeletons hidden about, I am not aware of them. Maybe some of our UK members can provide more detail.


    JE comments:  I knew about one of Boris's "love babies"--but didn't that scandal play itself out a few years ago?


    In the US, a child out of wedlock will more or less do you in politically.  But this doesn't appear to be the case in Europe--and certainly not in Latin America.


    Remember the one about Obama's 19 year-old illegitimate son Luther?  It made the rounds in the 2012 elections, and was taken as gospel by more than one publication:


    http://www.snopes.com/politics/satire/obamason.asp



     

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    • Boris Johnson and Gravitas (John Heelan, -UK 07/03/16 7:29 AM)
      Regarding Boris Johnson (see Pat Mears, 2 July), I suspect that it was his regular appearances on a weekly comedy news programme "Have I Got News For You" in which he regularly appeared to be an upper-class buffoon, a populist persona he has adopted that hides his true intelligence. His alleged priapic episodes came later. A flavour can be found in:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trE_bkWUFsE


      Also watch the one following this video where he is questioned about an alleged fraudulent friend.


      Not the gravitas needed for a future statesman?


      JE comments:  Entertaining clips, although some of the humor is "insidey" for the American palate.  Lacking in gravitas?  I'd trade Boris for the dyspeptic political fare we're presently being served over here.  And he's US-born...

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      • Boris Johnson (Patrick Mears, -Germany 07/04/16 8:27 AM)

        Responding to John Heelan's comments on Boris Johnson, I have to confess that although I was aware of him earlier, I didn't really become familiar with Johnson's superior intelligence and sharp wit, as well as his foibles until the Brexit campaign. His YouTube videos are well worth watching, especially this biography that charts his course from childhood to just a few years ago.


        https://youtu.be/EVq7ZGlvapM


        In addition to pursuing his political career, he has written books on topics as diverse as the Roman Empire, Winston Churchill, the City of London and, this November, his biography of William Shakespeare will be published.


        In the recent International New York Times article that I mentioned in my previous post, "Charm fails for politician who built a career on it" (page 1, column 5 of this past Weekend issue), the author concluded his piece with the following account:


        "Before now, Mr. Johnson has rarely been confronted with a situation he could not maneuver his way through. But a harbinger came in March, when he was summoned before a House of Commons committee and forensically interrogated by its Javert-like Tory chairman, Andrew Tyrie, about a series of statements he had made over the years about Europe.



        "Mr. Johnson tried his normal humorous approach. Asked, for instance, about his assertion that the European Union has a law saying that balloons cannot be blown up by children under 8 (it doesn't), he deflected the question, saying, 'In my household, only children under 8 are allowed to blow up balloons.'


        "He continued in this vein throughout the session, as Mr. Tyrie peered unsmilingly at him, acid in his voice. 'This is all very interesting, Boris,' Mr. Tyrie said at one point. 'Except that none of it is really true, is it?'"


        JE comments:  Today especially, we rebellious Colonials should butt out of British affairs, but let me ask one question:  why do Tory politicians have a better sense of humor than their Labour counterparts?  Or am I simply wrong?

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        • on Boris Johnson; UKIP Leader Nigel Farage Resigns (Nigel Jones, -UK 07/04/16 3:06 PM)
          Patrick Mears (July 4th) has called Boris Johnson correctly. Boris is what used to be called "a card." A witty intelligent man who makes people laugh, feel optimistic and good about themselves. A great quality in a politician, especially when most of them are miserable men in grey suits. He added colour to the landscape. And that's why people in Labour-supporting London backed him, a Tory. Come to think of it, the analogy is having Donald Trump running for mayor of New York--and winning.

          The downside, of course, is that Boris, learned man that he is, is a bit lazy and fuzzy on detail. He is also personally untrustworthy (not just to his wives). Anyway his downfall has been a Caesarian tragedy (as a classicist with a Latin tag for everything, he would appreciate the allusion) with his erstwhile chum Michael Gove playing the Brutus role. Gove has achieved the distinction of ending in a single week the political careers of two of his bestest buddies (no longer I fear)--Cameron and Boris. Not that it has profited him : he is now irretrievably branded as a serial killing political Typhoid Mary and his bid for the Premiership is doomed.


          At present the contest for the Tory party leadership, and therefore the Prime Ministership also, looks like being between two women: Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom. May is a cowardly opportunist who came out for Remain but did nothing for the campaign. Leadsom is a bright cookie with a financial background and a keen Brexiteer. Naturally I favour her and believe she will win when vote goes out to the 150,000 Tory grassroots party members who will effectively choose our next PM. But what do I know? A week ago I bet John Heelan on WAIS that Boris Johnson would be the next PM. Thank the Lord he did not take me up on the wager, otherwise I would be homeless now.


          Incidentally Patrick mentions the dry chairman of the Commons Finance committee, Andrew Tyrie. He happens to be my new Member of Parliament and I am thinking of challenging him if there Is an early General election. He is desperately dull.


          Oh, I almost forgot: my party leader Nigel Farage has just quit too.


          Britain owes this man so much: almost single-handed he brought this Referendum about by making our party such a threat to the Tories that Cameron was forced to hold an election to appease his own increasingly Eurosceptic party. Now, exhausted after 20 years of untiring struggle to reclaim our independence, he has understandably quit to get his own life back. For all the mud hurled in his direction, I salute him as the greatest living Englishman. And he also shares with Boris the qualities of humour, cheerfulness, eloquence and wit. He also has amazing energy and bravery, which I think Boris lacks.


          British politics will be much poorer and less colourful without them, though I cannot believe we have heard the last of them.


          JE comments: Nigel Farage has pronounced UKIP's political ambitions as achieved, so his work is done in a very real sense. This raises a larger question: what do single-issue parties do after their goal is met?

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        • Labour Party Wits: Michael Foot (John Heelan, -UK 07/05/16 5:53 AM)
          In response to John E's question, Labour has had its fair share of comic quips. My favourite is by Michael Foot in the House of Commons when David Steel, the youthful leader of the Liberals, proposed to vote with the Conservatives and against the Labour government.

          Foot commented: "What the Right Hon. Lady (Thatcher) has done today is to lead her troops into battle snugly concealed behind a Scottish nationalist shield, with the boy David holding her hand." Steel, he added, had "passed from rising hope to elder statesman without any intervening period whatsoever."


          "The Boy David" tag dogged Steel's political career for a very long time and is still remembered.


          JE comments:  Michael Foot, who died in 2010 at the age of 96, was a proponent of British withdrawal from the EEC--a Brexit avant la lettre.  I just learned this from Wikipedia.  Can anyone elaborate?


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